Consumption of contaminated maize poses a significant aflatoxin problem in many countries including Kenya, and many people living in developing countries may be unknowingly chronically exposed to aflatoxin through diet from maize and other cereals. The objective of this study was to determine and compare aflatoxin levels of maize stored households in different altitude areas and in different maize harvest seasons, in Makueni County in Kenya. Design of the study was comparative cross sectional analytical study and setting was in Kibwezi and Kilome sub-counties of Makueni County, Kenya. The study comprised four hundred and eighty households sampled from different regions within the county. The results of maize harvested in August/September season indicated that the mean moisture content of household maize was 12.78% in high altitude area which was slightly lower than in high altitude which had 12.85%. The aflatoxin positivity of maize contamination during this season was 25.0 % in low altitude area and 4.2% in high altitude area. The results of maize harvest in February/March season indicated that the mean moisture content of household maize was 13.48 % in high altitude area which was slightly lower than in high altitude area which was 13.63 %. The aflatoxin positivity of maize contamination during this season was 33.3 % in low altitude area which was higher than high altitude which had 12.5%. The findings show that the low altitude maize had higher moisture content and aflatoxin contamination than high altitude maize, indicating that altitude had an influence. The results further indicated that the most common strain/type of aflatoxin in both low and high altitude areas, and in both maize harvest seasons, was aflatoxin B1 followed by aflatoxin B2, with maize harvested in low altitude and February/March season having higher quantities of these aflatoxin sub-types. These study findings indicate that there was higher aflatoxin contamination of maize, in both sub-types, for maize harvested in February/March season than maize harvested in August/September season, in both low and high altitude areas, with low altitude areas having comparatively higher aflatoxin contamination than high altitude areas for maize harvested in February/March season. These findings indicate that people living in higher altitude consuming maize as their staple foodstuff are more exposed to aflatoxin than those living in lower altitude. Likewise people consuming maize harvested in February/Marchseason were more exposed to aflatoxin than those in consuming maize harvested in August/September season. These findings indicate that climate change phenomenon being experienced had effects on aflatoxin production in maize. There is therefore need for sustained public education onaflatoxin risks particularly from maize grown in higher altitude areas and those harvested in August/September seasons, as well as the need for preventive precautions on the same.
Prof. Dr. Bilal BİLGİN